Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ganapati Dance

The brat is part of a troupe that has been rehearsing frantically for a dance performance in the society come this Ganapati. This has included hiring the services of a choreographer for a fee, letting one's home be used as practice hall on alternate sessions and best of all, watching as the choreographer manages to make sense and order from the chaos of five under tens with little dance skill and much fighting skills.
The choreographer has carefully put together a medley of a few songs, old and new, from Bollywood and the kids dance to it with much enthusiasm and very bad coordination. Bumping into each other, yelling at each other and finally managing to get the steps in order, they had some semblance of a performance in place. If I had a grouse with anything, it was that the songs chosen had nothing to do with the elephant headed god, never mind that Bollywood had done enough songs in his honour to have a long playlist to choose from. But, not being a music person or a dance person, I held my opinion and chose instead to focus on the dance and how the brat was doing. What I noticed immediately was that he was the only child in the group of five who was smiling while going through his steps, whether the smile was brought on by him figuring out in his head how to tread on the toes of the hapless one next to him in sequence, I don't know, but it made him the most endearing of the bunch, never mind that I am a biased mom.
And that some of the kids moved naturally and the others didn't, no matter how hard they struggled, there is definitely something called innate grace that shows in one's movements. The brat had it. One other child had it. They moved like the music flowed through them, in their movements one could see that the good Lord had ladled out grace of movement by the bucketfulls when they were being made. The other three moved grimly, with much effort and with the kind of expression one has when being forced, with gun in the small of back to do things one doesn't want to.
The brat and his friends perform on Saturday. The mommies are hectically deciding what costume they will wear. The brat has declaimed loudly to all who will listen that he will wear track pants and tshirt because he cannot dance in tight pants. I need to convince him that dancing in tight pants is a mandatory skill if he wants to make it in Bollywood, given that his grades will not lead him to a professional qualification. Let's hope it works. Or he might just end up on stage in his night suit.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Here's to the wonderful sisterhood of mommy bloggers!

On Sunday, the Hindustan Times Delhi and Kolkata edition carried a lovely article on mommy blogging and how it is a fading phenomenon. Thank you, Manjula Narayan for the article, it really had me wondering whether we really are a dying species.
I was quoted in the article, along with Sunayana Roy, Riti Kaunteya, The Mad Momma and Lalita Iyer. Here it is for those of you who might care to read it.
Sunayana wrote a wonderful post in response to the HT article and it got me all nostalgic about the hey day of the mommy blogging phenomenon and the wonderful times we had bonding over that incredible shower group, and the mommybloggers we've fallen out of touch with, those who are still friends via Facebook and Twitter despite the fact that they barely blog anymore.
It also got me nostalgic about when I started blogging, and my decision to hive off my blogs into two separate ones, the personal and the mommy one, because, even at that point I knew that I would want to write fluff about clothes and make up and such like which might not strike a chord with those who would want to come to read about parenting and how I was channeling a banshee around five times a day.
I started blogging about the brat because I wanted to maintain an online diary of sorts to note down his milestones, anecdotes and such like, because given the sieve memory I have, I was sure to forget most of it before he got into long pants. And sure enough I have. Occasionally I go back to the early blogposts and pore over them in a bid to catch the elusive charm of those early days, the travails, the pride, the anguish, it has been a rollercoaster ride. And with me through this entire ride has been a sisterhood of sorts, other mommybloggers who came here as readers and commenters and with whom one began interacting and soon became friends. Hugs to all of you, you know who you are.
The mommy blogging community has been symbiotic, support has been given without qualms, love and affection too. The children who have fuelled this mommy blogging phenomenon have become OUR children, if you know what I mean, one follows each of them with a kind of vicarious pride and sees them grow over posts and photographs with our eyes welling up.
The brat has been blessed too, through this blog he's received superhero costumes, books, CDs, toys, chocolates and most of all, love from so many wonderful moms across the world who consider him one of their own. He doesn't quite understand it yet, he takes it for granted that he is loved.
How has mommy blogging affected me? To start with, it has made me a little more sensitive and a little less judgmental. It has made me supportive. It has helped me reach out to so many mothers worried with issues their children might have, I still receive mails from mothers asking for advice on children who have been diagnosed with LD or Autism Spectrum. I try my best to answer as much as in detail as I can.
The mommy blogging network also came together for two wonderful initiatives I was proud to be part of, the Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Months, April 2011 and 2012 and the Violence Against Women Awareness Months Oct 2011 and Oct 2012 coming up.
Is the mommy blogging phenomenon fading? I really don't know. Blogging by itself is fading. The fade is not exclusive to mommy blogging. But I am grateful for the wonderful friends I have made through my blog, and to the many people who read and comment and mail in. Thank you so much for being part of my journey in this space.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Dance, brat, brat

The Ganapati celebrations in the society have mandated that the children participate in that dreaded thing, the cultural activity, wherein they will be handed over the stage for five to ten minutes each and asked to perform. The brat, in a clear indication of where his genes have diverged from mine, given that I would need to imbibe generously from the fortifying spirit before I can be convinced to go on stage and perform to a song, has signed himself up for a group dance performance with four other pintsizes. This has meant hiring a choreographer, a task undertaken by the other very enthusiastic moms of the other pintsizes, I am merely coasting along on their tidal wave of enthusiasm, scheduling practice sessions and holding earnest complicated discussions re costume. To all of these, my invaluable contribution has been an earnest and constructive, "Whatever you guys decide."
The other day the brat went in for dance practice at 6 pm. This after a long and tiring day of swim practice at 6 am, school at 7.30 am, post school karate at 2.30 pm, tuitions at 4pm. The maternal heart was heavy and all for him skipping the dance practice session, but he laid out his raiment, track pants and tee shirt and poured himself into them, and took off for the club house where said dance session was to be held. Two hours later, with no sign of him laying the body weight onto the doorbell, I wandered down to the club house to check if he had emerged from the dance session. No. They were still trampling the flooring with the delicacy of a herd of elephants afflicted with St Vitus disease. The choreographer, a scrawny looking specimen, whose baggy trousers were staying up by sheer force of willpower given that his waist was the diameter of one of my thighs, was looking most harassed. He shouted his instructions to the kids and they laboured on. The brat, as I have mentioned before, is a smooth, natural dancer. That's the Y chromosome effect. I am a non dancer who loves to dance. Ergo, people who happen to be in the unfortunate situation of being compelled to watch me dance, have been known to put them OTC drops to cure selves of the pink eye the ensuing day. The brat, like his father, moves like a dream. He is a pleasure to watch, even if I might dare say so myself, given much watching of brat father dancing has happened in the good old days when brat pater danced the way dancing should happen.
After a bit the brat emerged. 'Mamma, sir said I dance very smooth." I nodded. "What is dance very smooth?"
"It means," I began explaining, "That your movements are not jerky, and are continuous." He gloated for a moment. "I am a good dancer?"
"Yes, son, you are a good dancer," I replied. "I am the best dancer?" he asked again.
"Not the best dancer yet, for that you have to practice dance every day and take dance classes from a good teacher," I replied.
"Den led it be. I don want to be a best dancer. I'll stay being a good dancer. Classes are boreding."
Yes, I thought, classes would take the fun out of dance. They would be boreding. If he still loved dance as he grew, he would seek it out himself. Till then, I would have to hold my horses and hope he found what interested him, never mind if I thought he was great at something and needed to concentrate on it. Perhaps, this is one of them parenting lessons I needed to learn.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

A Ramayana Children's Book app for the iPad

In August, I received a mail from Shipra, whom I don't know personally, which said this:
" I am a mother of 2 elementary schools kids and have worked as Autism specialist all my life before  I quit my job 6 months to pursue my passion which is to make our stories, folk tales etc  from India available to kids all over the world."

Having grown up on a steady diet of Amar Chitra Kathas, I do miss the beauty of myth and epics being told to our child in a way they are comfortable with, god knows I have tried getting the brat to read the Amar Chitra Kathas and watch the animated movies which occasionally come out with Hindu mythology and folk tales as their themes, but he is still far behind in being as informed on mythology as I was at his age. Dammit, I had two towers of Amar Chitra Kathas that were taller than me, and when you think that each one is as slim as you can get, you can imagine how huge my collection was. Unfortunately, I gave them all away when I turned a teenager, and regret that today.  So this mail intrigued me, and as always this is something I think most of us parents would be keen to check out.

I asked Shipra to write about it and here's a guest post from her.


"It all began with my son’s Diwali project last year. As I tried looking for the story regarding the significance of the festival and how it originated from our Hindu epic Ramayana, I realized that I could not find anything that could help relate the incidents to a class of students who belonged to different cultural backgrounds and ethnicity.

Left with no other option, I decided to write my own version which I could share with the children. A few days later, my elder son showed me the story of Peter Pan on his iPad. He asked, “Mom, why don’t you write that Ram story like this? “

This was the catalyst that led to the search for ideas and means to create my first iPad Application, “Ramayana Children’s Book” http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ramayan-childrens-book/id539902051?mt=8
With a background in special education and the  much needed confidence and inspiration, I began exploring the process of creating applications compatible to an iPad. This lead to building up my own team of professionals  who shared the same ideology.

The final app took about nine months from start to finish. Children could read Ramayana in either Hindi or English. Also, there were three options provided in each language, namely, “Read Myself”, “Read To Me” and “Auto Play”. The intention was not just to create a story, but also to make it interactive with puzzles,index and pages to color. This would help the child understand and also enjoy the story better, keeping them hooked till the very end.

But I was not satisfied with just this. The entire method felt so addictive now that I wanted to create more such stories. This led to the launch of http://www.peacockbookstore.com/. The  aim is to bring the wonderful world of stories and tales with morals that seem to have vanished from the lives of children today to their doorsteps.. With this mission in mind, the process goes on. The next story coming up is titled, “Fearless Frogs: A Lesson Of Hope” in September which will be compatible with all versions of Ipad and ipod followed by story of Buddha and Arjun and many more."

Shipra Mittal
Please send her suggestions and feedback at Shipra Mittal <sunflowerpublications@yahoo.com